In the beginning, I had a pelvic exam.
I was fresh off my first ever bone sesh, with a theater major who had called his roommate and asked if he could borrow the room for “maybe 20 or 30 minutes,” and I decided I needed to go on birth control. I called my mom and cryptically told her I needed to get a gyno appointment asap before I left home for a summer internship and then on to spend a semester abroad. I was planning on really getting around if given the opportunity.
I was 7 when I started fantasizing about my first boyfriend, around the time when my cousin explained to me what baby fat was, and that I definitely had a lot of it.
“Don’t worry,” she told me as we listened to “Sk8r Boi” on my new Hello Kitty boom box. “You’ll lose all that extra weight when you turn 13 and go through puberty.” 13 seemed like the perfect time to start dating and I was sure I could count on growing into and out of myself by then.
But at 19, the baby fat was all still there, and then some, and I pinched at my thighs as I sat waiting for my appointment.
The waiting room was full of mothers in their thirties who sat with their husbands and cooed at the bundles in their arms or car seats. The only person close to my age was a girl I recognized from my high school who had recently been featured on an episode of MTV’s Catfish, as the catfish. After being outed as her true self, she had immediately offered to blow her Internet boyfriend on national television. He, unamused, declined. I was in good company.
I got into the room and undressed, dangling my legs between the stirrups along to “Bend Me, Shape me” by the American Breed as it played over the speakers. This was the first time I had been to a doctor that wasn’t a pediatrician.
She entered the room and I could feel my butt clench at the sight of her. She was very thin with very straight hair and above all else she was very clean. The kind of clean where you can tell her living room carpet is that one specific shade of beige and her hands just look like they are always freshly sanitized. She seemed like the kind of person who always wears fresh jeans, like actually clean ones, not just recently Febreezed.
She didn’t look up from my chart as she entered the room before confirming that I was, in fact, there to get birth control.
Somehow my forearms had started to sweat.
“How many partners have you had?” she asked.
Early on my freshman year of college I confessed to this girl that I had never done the deed and she told me that if I hadn’t had sex by 18, I probably never would. And I really did believe her. Because why would anyone want to fuck a fat girl? Anyone who did was just desperate or had a weird fetish or made sure it was a one time thing done quickly, and with the lights off.
Before my first time I remember thinking “just get it over with,” but you can’t admit that to your clean doctor at the appointment that your mom made for you. You definitely can’t say, “Dr. Clean, I gave it up to a short Shakespeare enthusiast who definitely isn’t sticking around, but I want to close this canal off to any possible fertilization by the future thespians I’ve yet to meet but will inevitably bone to convince myself that someone, anyone, thinks I’m worthwhile, or more importantly, pretends to think that I’m hot. How could I perfectly place myself in the middle of that old spectrum between virgin and whore while factoring in my double-digit sized ass, my flabby arms, my growing fupa?
“Just one,” I said, and because of that stupid specific modifier, that just, Dr. Clean assumed I was in a super serious, full-force, attend-family-functions-together, monogamous relationship.
But this wasn’t my first rodeo. My first fake boyfriend was named Mathan, like Nathan, but with an M. He had red hair and freckles and drove a red convertible. He was 16. I was 6 at the time, and Mathan’s imaginary younger sister, Emily, was both my best friend and my sister in law. I would always buckle the built-in car seat for her in our family’s mini van while Mathan drove his hot rod alongside and blew me kisses through the window. I was made for this. I could keep up this lie.
Dr. Clean told me what my options were: pills, shots, an implant. I knew what I wanted but I was still too anxious to be assertive. I tried to explain to her that I would be leaving the country soon and needed something no nonsense and semi permanent.
“Oh!” she said “Will you even need it while you’re abroad?”
I am a firm believer in the Lizzie McGuire Effect. In my favorite Disney show turned blockbuster, dorky 8th grader Lizzie goes to Rome for her graduation trip, and is mistaken for an Italian pop star. Of course, she falls in love with Paulo, her look-a-like’s duet partner and no one seems to remember the ugly unicorn sweater she wore on picture day. It turns out Paulo is a total a-hole loser, but Lizzie still ends up with her long time best friend and fan favorite, Gordo. Obviously, I would never be Hillary Duff hot, but I was still secretly hoping that my childhood dreams would come true and I would have a magical romance during my semester abroad.
“I mean… I’m not really sure?” I said, unable to convey that I wasn’t positive I would be getting laid but I definitely wanted to be, all the while trying to maintain the charade about my fake BF, who by that time I had already decided was an art history major with a nose ring who loved his mom.
“Is your boyfriend going with you?” Dr. Clean asked.
I took a breath and did what I needed to do. For my reputation, and for my future.
“Yes,” I said. “My boyfriend is definitely going with me.”
She agreed to give me a birth control implant and explained that it would need to be inserted while I was on my period. I made an appointment for the next week, but my period never came. I think a higher power was trying to out me as the lonely hoe I really was, and tip me to the fat tramp side of the virgin-whore sliding scale.
I went in for my appointment anyway with a totally blood free vag, and when I told the nurse that my period was late but I was sure I wasn’t pregnant, she made it obvious with her eyes that she thought I was a total hoe bag and a liar.
“We’ll need to test your urine,” she said, and she left the little check-in booth I was in to talk shit about me to the doctor. The test was negative, and I was escorted to the examination room for Dr. Clean to insert my new birth control implant into my arm.
“You know, if you’re sure you’re not pregnant, I’m sure,” she told me as she put on rubber gloves. “I told Cathy that I thought your boyfriend wasn’t around at the moment so there was no way you’d be pregnant. She didn’t believe me. ‘Ya never know what some people are doing,’ she said. But I trust you. It’ll be fine. Just make sure you wait a full month before you have sex, just to be sure.”
“Of course,” I said.
“So you leave home pretty soon, huh? Will your boyfriend be visiting you this summer before you guys leave together? Gosh, you really will be seeing the world together and having so many adventures.”
“Yeah,” I said. “He’ll definitely be coming out to see me once I get settled in.”
I left the doctors office with gauze wrapped tight around my upper arm, a purple bruise beginning to form underneath. I finished packing my bags, and right before I got in the car to leave I went to the bathroom and weighed myself. I had gained 3 pounds.
Weeks later after several long plane rides and orientation sessions, I met my first real boyfriend. We were on a class trip in Amman, Jordan, walking through old architectural ruins, and I was, as always, sweating profusely.
He walked past me and I swooned at the way his jeans hung on his hips, the just-slightly too baggy fit of boys in their late teens and early twenties, that leaves you wondering if their asses are totally concave or if its just hiding because their mom stopped buying their pants for them.
“This heat,” he whisper sang as he walked past me, licking a bead of sweat off his lips, my underwear becoming increasingly wet. “It’s oppressive.”
Later we fucked on a balcony off my hotel room and while he thrusted on top of me he said, “I’ve wanted to do this for a long time.”
“Really?” I asked. “Because I feel like you could stick your dick in literally anything else like a bag of rice or a pudding cup or something.” Yes, I really said this, out loud, while being penetrated, clearly unconvinced that anyone could actually want me, like me, because not even I did, but I definitely did like pudding.
He laughed, and then for a while he loved me and I loved him back.
In the end, (or an end or the middle, or another beginning, who knows) I have another pelvic exam. This time, I’m fresh off my most recent bone sesh with a 26 year old comedian, who had the audacity to ghost me even though he was the one who admitted he did whip its and didn’t even know how to skateboard.
The nurse asks me if I’m in a relationship and I immediately answer no, with no hesitation or panic or guilt or inadequacy. Maybe a twinge of uneasiness that I’ve driven away yet another deadbeat suitor by giving them access to my body, but my friends will talk me down from that later in a text message group chat.
She asks me to step on the scale and I ask if she needs me to take off my shoes.
“Totally up to you,” she says. And I step on in my boots, too lazy to take them off and put them back on again. She announces my weight aloud in the hallway and I make a conscious effort not to wince, the work of months convincing myself that I am more than my love handles and my cellulite and my inability to fit into anything at H&M.
“Take your shoes off,” she says, and I comply. “I promise you’ll be about three pounds less without your shoes.”
I step on the scale again, two pounds lighter than before. “Doesn’t that make you feel better?” she asks, and I shrug and say it is what it is, though later I’ll trace the stretch marks on my torso and arms and consider every single pound.
But I’ll also take nudes, and tell jokes, and swipe left on several tinder jabronis, and eat Cheese Its in my bed, and call my sister, and cry, and laugh, alone, but mostly at home in my body. Or at least working on it for now until I lose the baby fat.